Review of Active/Freeze [12k1009]

Igloo (US)

Active / Freeze is the first disc on Taylor Deupree’s 12k label to be issued in a lot of 1,000, twice the quantity of all previous releases in the catalog. And for good reason, the label has been gaining steam ever since it was founded by Deupree in January of ’97.

This collaboration sees the joining together of two forces that have long been a part of the techno and ambient scenes, and both artists have demonstrated their own talents through a constant evolution in sound. And the 12k label itself, home to only a dozen releases so far, is tracking it’s own evolutionary course in electronic music. Whereas early albums varied from exquisite high-glossed atmospheric ambience (Thesecretnumbertwelve) to hard-hitting techno tracks (ARC vs Tiny Objects In Space) to subtle IDM-slanted programmings (Drum Komputer or Comma), the later half of the catalog focuses more on sounds that are heavily experimental and increasingly abstract. Often clumsily referred to as “glitch music” or “clicks + pops” in the music press, this fairly new soundform is still taking shape as it explores the new archetecture of sound design software, the idiosyncrasies of failing studio equipment, and an entirely new level of sonic minimalism.

Such 12k compilation releases as .AIFF and 12k1008 are superb introductions to this rapidly growing style of sound, and feature a great pool of talent involved. Active / Freeze continues this journey. Created by sending updated soundfiles back and forth between them, Tetsu and Taylor develop the sounds that would be used for the album in their own studios, giving each artist the home court advantage. Little by little, sounds are mixed, edited, chopped up, and recombined (among a vast selection of other less adjective-friendly treatments) using various DSP techniques, such as granular synthesis, until this digital stew satisfies. Sounds are altered at a very basic level, previously unattainable with the technology of the day. At once crunchy, organic, and soothing, this album required repeated listenings for it to really click with me (no pun intended). I placed the disc in the player on -repeat- mode per Tetsu’s recommendation, and allowed the sounds to drip into consciousness as I went about my daily activities. I did find that my incidental mood at the time heavily influenced the manner in which I percieved the sounds. What at first seemed like an overly complex wall of stimuli began to take on a different character as I noticed new aspects of the sounds, and whole new sounds that previously went right over my head unheard. So this disc reveals a little more about itself with each listen, I’ve had it for a couple months now and am still hearing new elements that I could swear were not there before! As with many releases in the 12k catalog, this disc is sure to be hard to find before long, so don’t hesitate to pick it up if you see it. – NJ

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